King calls on Summers to ask for negative ads to be taken off the air

Independent Angus King on Thursday called on Republican rival Charlie Summers to ask the three outside groups that have poured more than $1.5 million into anti-King advertising to take their ads off the air.

The call came a day after two polls showed King’s lead shrinking in the campaign for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat. The polls show the ads are having an effect in cutting into King’s lead and potentially helping Democratic rival Cynthia Dill attract more support.

The anti-King ads have come from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has now spent more than $800,000 on two ads attacking King’s record as governor; the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose spot attacks both King and Dill; and Maine Freedom, a newly formed group with Republican ties whose $360,000 ad campaign encourages Democrats to choose Dill over King.

“The Republican National Senatorial Committee (RNSC)(sic) and the U.S. Chamber attacks are the worst kind of politics — misleading and deceptive attacks to bolster a candidate with no disclosure — (sic) around who is paying for them and who that candidate will be beholden to after the election,” King spokeswoman Crystal Canney said in a statement.

Summers spokesman Drew Brandewie called the request from King hypocritical, citing the fact that King on Thursday was in Washington, D.C., to raise money for his campaign and contrasting comments he made on WCSH TV-6 on Wednesday indicating “we are going to come back and draw the distinctions between myself and Charlie Summers” with his earlier pledges to run a positive campaign.

“Angus King’s hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Brandewie said in an email. “Angus King swore off outside money but proposed this ban from a Washington D.C. fundraiser. Someone needs to explain to Angus King that a promise is only good if it is kept. Given his track record, I would expect to see him on air with a negative ad as early as tomorrow.”

In June, King tried to get Summers and Dill on board with a pledge to discourage spending by so-called super-PACs, outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money and make unlimited, independent expenditures in a campaign. Neither candidate agreed to it, though Dill said she would sign on if King also agreed to further fundraising and campaign financing limits.

“In a debate Monday in Lewiston, Summers said he wanted this election to be about the issues,” Canney’s statement continued. “We offer him the opportunity to make good on his statement. The people who are paying for these ads don’t know the difference between Portland and Presque Isle.”